My Most Recent LIBN Column: Clusters Can Create Jobs if Zoning Will Get Out of the Way…

Long Island can lead the way as America strives to compete.  The past few weeks have seen significant movement that can benefit our intellectual institutions and has the potential to spur massive economic growth. Last week Senator Schumer joined with leaders from Stony BrookUniversity, Cold Spring Harbor Labs and BNL to push for a regional innovation cluster.  This week Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko continued the call when he announced Accelerate LI at his State of the Town.  And President Obama stressed the need to invest in technology and education in the State of the Union.

Schumer and Lesko are smart to push a regional innovation cluster for Long Island because that’s exactly the direction of federal policy. Originally an idea that was born out of Harvard Business School, theAdministration and Congress has funded various new programs promoting clusters through the Departments of Commerce and Energy. And more recently, Congress passed the COMPETES Act, which created a new federal cluster program aimed at efforts like those being spearhead on Long Island. These new programs put a premium on linking research institutions, business organizations, and private investors. That’s exactly what we need on Long Island.

Programs like these have the potential to transform local economies if they are executed properly. It will fall on local government to assure that new industries born through these partnerships have the opportunity to grow.  If local government doesn’t provide quick approvals and incentives for innovators and investors to build their businesses when they leave the institutions, jobs created by our innovation cluster will leave the island, just as they have in the past.

I am confident that the institutions above along with NorthShore/LIJ’s Feinstein Institute, Hofstra, Adelphi and LIU will produce great minds with great ideas.  They in turn will develop companies capable of creating good jobs. They have in the past, but can we keep them here?  It’s time for Long Island governments to wake up!  In the face of one of the worst economic climates in history, some LI towns are putting ultra-parochial concerns before regional needs by saying no to good projects that can produce jobs, stimulate the local economy and provide homes for young professionals.  We can build these companies, but where will their employees live?

I have often used this space to talk about how our region changed from a farming and fishing community to a region with a population the size of Chicago.  We have all of the problems of major cities but we pretend we live in Mayberry when we zone.  That’s got to change or we might as well take the money we are investing in clusters and light it on fire.

LIBN Column: Public Officials, Public Events…

Below is the Text from my LIBN Column published today 1/14/2011
I’ve been there, retail politics with a high-profile electedofficial.  In my case, it was US SenatorChuck Schumer on whose staff I served for nearly 6 years.  Chuck loves retail and does it often andwell.  He spends countless hours on LIRRplatforms, in front of supermarkets and at countless parades andfestivals.   He listens to everyone, evenpeople who disagreed with him.  Chancesare if you have gone to the Oyster Fest, Riverhead or Huntington Fall Festivalsyou have seen the Senior Senator talking with his constituents and enjoying thelocal corn.  He loves getting and I lovedbeing with him, even though it often meant working weekends and always added tomy workload.  Elected officials exist toserve the public and you can’t serve the public if you’re not willing to go tothem. 
I never worried that a public event would end inviolence.  To think a nameless, facelessthug would attempt to take the life of an elected official for any reason isunfathomable, even today.   Whilerhetoric employed in modern politics has received greater attention in the wakeof the Arizona shootings, it’s nothing new. Jefferson once referred to John Adams as a hermaphrodite, and there arecountless examples of heated politics in our history.  I’m sure we will debate what effect the toneof the last election had, but clearly this was an act of insanity andfanaticism that has no place in our republic.
After what happened in Arizona, elected officials and staffsacross the nation are likely reconsidering how they interact with voters.  I’m confident this won’t stop them all fromparticipating in retail politics, but it will certainly stop some.  Let’s hope the lasting impact of Arizonawon’t be less access to our leaders by regular people who need their help andrarely have opportunities to interact with members of congress.       
I pray that Giffords survives and goes back to that Safewayfor a “Congress on Your Corner” event soon, and I hope that others don’t hidein their offices as a result of what happened in Arizona.